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Are you doing this parenting thing totally the wrong way? You could be, and not even know it. No parent claims to know it all when it comes to raising kids, but there are things that we do as parents that are probably not the best ways to handle things that come up every day.
When I first became a dad over 10 years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. The closest I had ever come to being a parent was babysitting my little cousins and my wife’s little sister. Parenting is hard. No one ever said it would be easy, did they? It’s the one job you really can’t train for ahead of time. You can take all of the parenting and birth classes in the world, but when the big day finally gets here, it’s so different.
I don’t claim to be the perfect dad. I’m not, and I don’t expect that I’ll ever be perfect. But, there are some things that I think parents do totally wrong that have a huge impact on the growth and development of their kids. I’m guilty of just about all of these, so please don’t think that I wrote this post in judgement of others.
Here are 4 signs I came up with that I think parents do have control over that can greatly impact their kids’ lives. Just because we’ve done one or maybe all of these doesn’t mean that we are bad parents, but we do have the choice to make changes for the betterment of our families.
Can you identify with any of these signs?
- Sign #1: Bedtime is always a battle
- Sign #2: Your kid’s meltdown causes you to cave
- Sign #3: You say “no” to everything
- Sign #4: Your kids know no boundaries
Sign #1: Bedtime is always a battle
Ahh, the never-ending bedtime routine. It always creeps up on us every night, and then we are left to fight the good fight. My first son really tested us at bed time. He never really had an established bedtime routine. It was always a struggle from the time he was born and to this day he sometimes has challenges falling to sleep at night.
New parents often wonder, “Will I ever get to sleep again?” The answer is yes! I know it seems like an eternal battle with little ones, but we have to remember they have never been trained to sleep a full night. They are brand new to this world and are dependent on their parents to teach them how to become an independent sleeper. Notice I did NOT say dependent sleeper!
With 4 kids, it’s very hard sometimes to get them all in bed at the same time and to get them to sleep at the same time. Please realize that every night will be different. Our kids’ moods will be different and things going on in their lives impact how comfortable they are in falling asleep quickly. Don’t stress night time. I did for so long. My oldest always got out of his bed almost immediately and it was a repetitive process of carrying him back to his bed. It’s life. It’s parenting. It’s fixable!
You always end up in your kids’ room multiple times at bedtime
One mistake we made as new parents was to keep going into his room after we told him goodnight and turned out the light. The reason that this is a mistake is because it interferes with the child’s ability to learn that lights out means sleep and quiet. If by screaming and crying they find out that mommy and daddy will come back in and pick them up, then the behavior you are trying to teach will backfire.
One way you can train your child to stay in bed and go to sleep is by allowing him or her to be a part of the bedtime process. Let your kids participate in picking out a nighttime story to read. Once the story is over, they know they are to close their eyes and go to sleep.
We know that no matter what we do, our kids will still try to test the process. When you say good night, turn off the lights, and close the door, you are setting the stage for your child to then be independent and fall asleep on their own. When they challenge that process and get out of bed, repeat the same steps. Return your child to his or her bed, tuck them in, say good night, turn out the lights, and close the door again. You may do this for hours. Don’t give in.
No matter what their age, kids need some time away from mommy and daddy. Bedtime is the perfect time to instill independence and self-soothing. If we are not giving our kids the time and space to self-sooth, they will have the constant need to always be attached at the hip to mommy and daddy. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing. We all enjoy time with our kids. But, in establishing a positive bedtime routine, we are setting the boundary that bedtime is sleep time, and that mommy and daddy are not in the room with baby. Going back into the room with baby repeatedly at bedtime restarts the self-soothing process. This is the opposite of what we are trying to establish.
You put baby to bed with a bottle
Many parents I know, including myself, are guilty of having put their baby in bed with a bottle to keep him or her from crying. Bottles should never go in the bed with the baby because it teaches them to become dependent on the bottle in order to go to sleep. It is important to always feed the baby outside of the crib. Dentists have also claimed that babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouths increases the risk of cavities.
You keep talking to baby
Bedtime is quiet time. By talking to your baby during bedtime, it teaches that it is play time instead. It’s so easy to be tempted to talk to your baby while it is bed time, but resisting and continuing to promote a quiet environment is the best course to take. Maintaining a quiet environment is important in teaching your baby that it’s time to go to sleep.
You put baby in bed with you
Regardless of what some parents say about co-sleeping, it is not beneficial to the parents or the baby. We want to instill independence in falling asleep as early as possible. The longer we hang on to crutches to help everyone fall asleep at night, the longer it takes for them to be corrected. A child that never gets the opportunity to sleep in his or her own room is a child that will probably have issues being independent in other areas of life.
There are times when putting your child in bed with you is appropriate, but those times should be few and far between. There are also stories of parents rolling over on the child.
Putting your baby in bed with you should always be the very last resort. We have to remember that baby is new at learning how to fall asleep so it’s important to let those skills develop without intervening.
Some parents feel that the only way to stop a baby from crying is co-sleeping, and in some cases that has worked, but the long-lasting impacts are actually detrimental to baby. It is understandable that many parents do not like the cry-it-out method, but I am here to testify that it works. It is very hard in the beginning, but it eventually helps baby gain independence and learn how to fall asleep alone.
The marital bed is just that – sleeping space for you and your spouse. A child that is trained to sleep in the same bed as the parents does not understand the need for the separation. Mom and dad need that alone time to continue to make their marriage work. It can’t happen if a child is in the same bed.
Sign #2: You give in to your child’s meltdown
Let’s face it. Every kid ever born is or has had a meltdown at various times. It’s just a part of their development. You tell them they can’t have a cookie – a meltdown occurs. You tell them to go to bed – a meltdown occurs. We need to recognize when these meltdowns occur and to find a trigger that will help calm the storm.
How many times have you been out in public when your child has a meltdown? It’s inevitable. You feel like the whole word is watching what you do and that they think that you must not be able to parent. I stopped feeling that way a long time ago. How I react to how my kids are behaving in public shows others how well I parent my kids.
Nothing is worse than giving in to a child’s meltdown. It teaches them that they can get their way by this type of behavior. A child who learns to get his or her way by throwing a fit will more than likely learn that this type of behavior is acceptable as an adult.
Whatever you do, never yell back at the child who is having the meltdown. As parents, we need to demonstrate how to properly resolve issues, so by remaining calm and steering clear of yelling, we can be successful models of this behavior.
A good way to calm these meltdowns is to allow the child time to vent. He or she will not listen and follow directions until physically and emotionally ready. Once your child has calmed down, reinforce what the directions are and consequences for not following them.
Sign #3: You say no to everything
If you are one of those parents that says no to everything, it’s time to stop. While we do need to teach our kids that there are boundaries, there is no reason to say no to every request that they ask of us. I have struggled with this in the past, and I can’t say today that I still don’t struggle with it. Our kids need to be able to know that we are flexible parents that allow them to experience new things in the world. We need to use our best judgement on things they ask us and try to find ways to compromise with them. When they ask you for that new video game, don’t immediately say no. Come up with ways that they can earn the game. Start a chore chart and a reward system. Kids love to know that they’ve earned something. We all enjoy that sense of accomplishment!
Sign #4: Your kids know no boundaries
While I talked about not saying no to everything in the paragraph above, our kids do need to know that there are boundaries. This means they need to know that there’s a respectful way to treat others. Kids that are constantly rude to others need to be taught the appropriate way to behave.
Like I also said earlier, kids need to be able to work for things they want. If we are constantly handing things out to them all the time, this will be impossible. Instill values of hard work and celebrate successes. Setting regular house rules is a great way to show that there are boundaries in the house. Kids need to know this because there are boundaries outside of the house. Schools have boundaries in place that kids are expected to follow, so setting similar boundaries at home will make it easier for them to transition to outside the home.
These aren’t the only signs
Of course, there are many other signs that you may not be at your best when parenting, but I will touch on some of those in future posts. I thought for this post that I would touch on my top 4. No matter if you didn’t fit the mold on any of the above, or if you are guilty of all of these, we all have a duty to be the best parents that we can possibly be for our kids. A good goal to set for 2017 is to work on these things for the betterment of our family’s future.
Can you think of any other signs? Let me know in the comments below.